Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Airport Design

I was looking at the airport terminal maps on a recent flight for various international airports and noticed that no two airports looked similar. I had to figure out a way of transferring between two terminals in SFO in the shortest possible time. Only after I ran through the airport did I discover that I had to go through airport security once again, even though I was just changing planes! That is when I started thinking about airport designs.

Why isn't there a standard airport terminal design that is optimized for airplane traffic as well as passenger traffic?

Airports have been around for quite sometime and there are hunderds around the world. A lot of thinking goes into airport design such as environmental concerns, reuse, use of natural light, efficient heating/cooling, etc. I have seen several contemporary airport terminal designs, each expressing their own style and culture.

But, what is surprising is the fact that the terminal maps and the runways are different in every airport. I had imagined that studies had been conducted and standard designs would have come out of optimizing the operations of an airport. Most airports are built upon a rectangular patch of ground. Of course, some airports will have certain constraints, but none too great to not use a standard, efficient and proven layout.

I am all for unleashing ones creativity when it comes to the cosmetic design of the terminals. But, when it comes to efficient design of the runways, taxiways as well as the terminals, there needs to be a study conducted by an operations research scientist. I am sure someone has already done this, but I fail to see it in use anywhere.